Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Tripwires of Success

91. The Tripwires of Success

In Ceramics, as in any other field, no success, no stage of improvement is entirely without its negative aspects. I’ve begun to think of these things as “tripwires.” Not only can you fall flat if you fail to predict them, they act as a perverse signal that you are succeeding, that you have made progress.
For example, instructors and adjunct faculty, as well as teachers in their first year of a college teaching contract, are not asked to serve on any faculty committees. If you find yourself on such a committee (which few consider a reward) you have ‘succeeded.’ You are a college teacher of enough competence and experience to be entrusted with some part of the administrative work of your college or university. Further, your contributions to the committee will be an important part of your application for tenure. Congratulations! You are on the path to further honors and successes (and responsibilities).
In business many of the more obvious tripwires relate to taxes. At first, no one cares whether or not you collect sales taxes. The sale of student pots is much like a yard sale. Later, certain Fairs will demand to see your tax permit or state revenue officers may visit your booth. Again, congratulations. You’ve advanced from the little leagues of student sales to the grown-up world of Art as a business.
Later, you may decide that you need the help of a tax accountant. Congratulations. You wouldn’t need to spend the money on an accountant if you weren’t earning so damn much of it through the sale of your Art. Also, congratulations on getting someone else to do your taxes and on having them do a better job with them than you would have. Financially, you may well be ahead on the deal. Emotionally, you’re bound to be.
Yes, I’m an absurd optimist. But these various expenses and irritations related to success do have value, if only to signal your achievements. Furthermore, the only two ways to avoid these tripwires are to cheat or to fail.
If you wish, we can go over the tripwires of both cheating and failure. But I’d rather not.
They say that, “no good deed ever goes unpunished,” and that may be so. But if five percent (5%) of every triumph is inconvenience then so be it. Focus on the triumph and minimize your moaning about the inconvenience. No one likes a poor winner. Choose instead to take the good with the bad, in good grace, and with the clear vision that you planned for this day and these necessities. It’s the grown-up thing to do, and in saying so, I remind myself of this as much as I remind any of you.

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